By Jack Tomas
Let’s face it, Latin American history is nothing but a series of evil jerks treating people like crap. Seriously, think about it. When was the last time there was a leader, any leader, in any Latin American country who wasn’t a crook, killer, or psychopath? It seems like our only choices are: corrupt mafia-type government, military junta, or fascist/communist dictator. Whenever a decent leader comes along, he gets killed. Before the Spanish arrived, the Native-Americans had to deal with the likes of the Aztec and Inca emperors. They would force people into slavery to build their pyramids and then cut out their hearts or whatever. Then came the Spanish conquistadors and their genocidal ways. They were succeeded by the oppressive Spanish colonial governments who were then overthrown by revolutions that inevitably lead to oppression, death, and poverty. Though we need waaaaay more than 5, here are the top 5 worst Latin American dictators of the last century.
What an a-hole. Augusto Pinochet was the archetypal CIA-backed, corrupt, murderous, fascist, military strongman. He seized power in 1973 from the democratically elected president of Chile, Salvador Allende. Allende then died under mysterious circumstances. To consolidate his power, he turned to the United States. The CIA was afraid of the leftist Allende’s followers, so they supported Pinochet’s dictatorship. All told, Pinochet killed about 3,500 people and tortured 25,000 others. If he didn’t like you, he would send a death squad called The Caravan of Death over for a visit. The Caravan of Death, people. He was later deposed, and in 1998 the British arrested him for crimes against humanity. He returned to Chile to stand trial. They found him unfit to stand trial due to dementia. How convenient.
This guy was crazy. People say that a lot, but Trujillo was seriously insane. Trujillo took over the Dominican Republic in the early 30’s in a military coup. Again, he was backed by the CIA. All you needed to be left alone by the United States in the 20th century was not be a commie. Trujillo thought he was God’s representative on Earth. He renamed Santo Domingo, Ciudad Trujillo. He forced all newspapers to praise Trujillo on the front page of every issue. A law was passed by the congress that all churches had to display, “Dios en el cielo, Trujillo en la tierra” on the church buildings. He had it changed to, “Trujillo en la tierra, Dios en el cielo.” He thought he WAS MORE IMPORTANT THAN GOD. No one knows how many people he killed. Thousands. He had both death squads, torture squads, and rape squads, because if you want something done right you’ve got to call in the specialists. He was assassinated in 1961. Ha Ha.
I’m Cuban-American. So, you knew he was going to be on the list. He is one of the most loved and hated leaders on Earth. There is no arguing that he is one of the most extraordinary figures of the 20th century. He lead a rag-tag group of rebels in a revolution against a powerful mechanized army, stood up to the United States when the U.S. was at the height of its power, and held on to power longer than any dictator in history. He also brutally murdered thousands of dissidents and imprisoned many others. He ruled with an iron fist and anyone who challenged him was smashed. He sent his army to places like Angola, the Congo, Bolivia, and other places to start commie revolutions. These men committed thousands of crimes against humanity. I know, my cousin was one of those guys. Fidel kept a Soviet style regime in place in spite of his people not having enough food or clothes. He’s retired now and wears track suits instead of olive drab, but he still has a big say in what his brother Raul does. Things seem to be getting better, but who knows. I think he’s going to be turned into a cyborg and live forever. Oh, and one time he almost caused WWIII.
No, Anastasio was not a long lost Russian princess. He was the penisheaded dictator of Nicaragua for 30 years. Somoza was a failed businessman who had aspirations to power. Somoza worked for a guy named Sacasa who was fighting for control of Nicaragua with leftist rebels led by Augusto Sandino. So, Somoza killed Sandino and forced Sacasa to resign. Somoza took control of the government with the support of…drum roll…the CIA, again! FDR said of him, “He’s a son of a bitch, but he’s our son of a bitch.” He sold Nicaragua’s gold, oil, and minerals to anyone who wanted it and pocketed a lot of the money. The people of Nicaragua were kept in a state of dire poverty while he got richer and richer. If anyone tried to protest he would sent his death squads after them. Then the poet Rigoberto Perez shot him, (poetic justice!) His sons succeeded him, until they in turn were overthrown by commie dictator Daniel Ortega.
Forget what Andrew Lloyd Webber told you, Juan Peron was a world class a-hole. Juan was a military man in the 20’s and 30’s who learned a lot about dictatoring from Benito Mussolini. Juan was a big fan of Mussolini and Hitler. He would later give asylum to hundreds of Nazi war criminals, including Dr. Megele. He and his wife Eva, (of “Don’t cry for me Argentina” fame), took over in 1946. He was democratically elected promising a better day for the Argentine worker. What he did instead was consolidate power, suppress opposition, and steal millions of dollars from their supporters. He was deposed in the 50’s but his followers brought him back in the 70’s. That’s when he began the “dirty war” that was continued by his successor Jorge Videla. Thousands of people “disappeared”. You know, murdered.